John Buffett and Time-space Compression: A 19th Century Adventure




Albert, Donald Patrick

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Pennsylvania Geographer


John Buffett was a fascinating individual who was able to crisscross the Atlantic and Pacific oceans over seven decades in the 1800s with little financial resources. Buffett’s main claim to fame is as Pitcairn Island’s first immigrant in 1823 to the settlement established there by HMAV Bounty mutineers and their Polynesian companions. This study examines Buffett’s oceanic peregrinations beginning in 1815 and ending in 1872. Primary sources from Buffett, and images and distance measurements from Google Earth Pro allowed me to track and analyze his journeys. The discussion focuses on the actors (such as traders, whalers, and missionaries) and colonial empires that enabled his movement across large expanses of bays, seas, and oceans. The intertwined effects of the Industrial Revolution and Eurocentrism were shrinking the world (time-space compression); these factors help understand Buffett’s ability to traverse the oceans with little except his own knowledge, skills, and a desire to wander.


This article was originally published in Pennsylvania Geographer.


John Buffett, Pitcairn Islands, time-space compression, Norfolk Island


Albert, D.P. (2023). John Buffet and Time-space Compression: A 19th Century Adventure. Pennsylvania Geographer, 61(1), pp 15-34.